I had a good day this past Sunday at Monmouth Park's Simulcast Series Challenge #2. I goosed my $100 starting bankroll into $332 by day's end, good for a $132 net profit, 15th place (of 274 entrants), and a berth in April's SSC Invitational, which qualifies 2 of 80 for the NHC.
It was a good day (for a change), not a great day.
I went 5-for-15 in my wagers, and while I had no bombs to speak of (there weren't really any on the day), each was reasonably priced. My often-trusty trainer-recency angle helped land me on Bico Blanco, who paid $17.40 in Calder's 5th race; Quelch, who $11.80 in Tampa 6; and Chief Redneck, who paid $8.60 to place in Tampa 10. Bruno's workout report pointed me to Straight Town, who paid $19.60 in Gulfstream 9, and just some straightforward handicapping of a turf-route-to-dirt-sprint led me to Cowgirl Spirit, who paid $14.40 in Tampa 3.
My winners were spaced out so I was banging around the lower end of the 25-person leaderboard for most of the afternoon. My first 12 bets were of the $10W variety, before I hung a little fire with a $20WP bet on Chief Redneck. My luck was pretty decent, as aside from a missed break or two I saw generally clean trips, and Quelch actually finished 2nd but was the beneficiary of a disqualification that could have gone either way. (Unfortunately the DQ hurt my neighbor Paul Zerbst, who co-owned Onto Luck, the 1995 Cherry Hill Mile runner-up.)
So heading into the last contest race, I had $342 and was in 15th place, a few hundred bucks or so away from getting paid (top 10 finish), and at some risk of falling out of the top 20. What to do? GP11 was a 13-horse field of maiden turfers, so it was wide wide open. I didn't have any real conviction, but of course when I looked I found some interesting stuff. Among others I liked Cinnamon Spice, a first-time starter trained by Chad Brown who went off at 16-1, as well as Lusaka, a seemingly safer Pletcher-Velazquez debuter who went off at about half those odds.
I typically go for broke in last-race situations, so my first inclination was to put down $150, or maybe even my whole bankroll of wax, on Cinn Spice or Lusaka. But I thought long and hard about it, and I did want to stay in the top 20, so I backed off. I ended up putting just $10P on Cinn Spice, kind of a weird bet but I guess I was thinking if he placed it would give me a few shekels. Cinn Spice ran decently but could manage only a non-threatening 3rd, and Lusaka did nothing.
You don't often root against your horse, but looking back maybe I should have, as the worst outcome probably would have been Cinn Spice winning at a $35.40 mutuel, which would have meant I missed an opportunity to win a contest by going conservative and turtling. But luckily things worked out okay, and I was happy to get out of there on the plus side, with an invitational berth in my back pocket, and without any haunting regret.